This is a blog post I have been getting many requests to write! It is a bit delayed, Harvey is 9 months now, because we were dealing with severe eczema and potential food allergies which delayed and changed the path for food introductions. More on the severe eczema journey later! That is going to require at least a few dedicated blog posts! Having severe eczema increases the risk of having food allergies, so introducing foods was a tense process for us. Harvey finally got his first allergist appointment at 7 months, so we held off on food introductions until that time.
From the time Harvey was 4 months to 7 months, I was on what is called a total elimination diet to try to figure out what was causing his eczema. For the 12 weeks I was on this diet I was only eating 4-5 foods. For the first 8 weeks they were chicken, coconut, rice, spinach, and blueberries, then for the final 4 it was lamb, sweet potato, spinach, and blueberries. I had already decided before all of this happened that we were not going to be doing baby cereals, as babies have low levels of amylase which is an enzyme required to digest grains for the first year of their life. Their guts are also quite immature and are by design still “leaky”, so grains are also not the best choice for this reason. The primary reason baby cereals are used is to ensure that the baby is getting adequate levels of iron.
Iron Requirements in Breastfed Babies
In babies that are exclusively breast fed, the requirement for iron increases due to the depletion of stores from birth and the amount that is accessible in the breastmilk. Baby cereal is used by many as a way to fill this requirement. We chose to use iron rich liver, meats, and veggies instead. I used many resources when I was preparing to introduce foods, but the one that I had on hand in the kitchen the most for recipes is Super Food Nutrition for Babies.
Baby Led Weaning Yes or No?
We decided not to do baby led weaning at this point in time for a few reasons. My main objective with feeding Harvey is nutritional optimization. With BLW I would not be able to quantify how much of each food he was taking in and I also did not like the food waste associated with it as I purchase him high quality food. I tend to run on the anxious side and the gagging was not something that I needed to be dealing with, especially after having gone through so much with his eczema. He did not have a pincer grasper grip at 7 months but has developed a great one now at 9 months. If I am being honest, I also do not like the mess of it all and the multiple baths a day, which can aggravate eczema. There is also research that having a first exposure to a food through an opening in the skin can lead to the development of food allergies and he still has some open skin on his face from eczema. I liked being able to ensure that the purees got into his mouth and not on his face. We use our Diaper Cream on his cheeks before meals to help keep food particles from getting into his system via his skin.
7 months (1 meal/day)
We introduced Harvey’s first foods at 7 months. He was not showing much interest before this, as he loves his milk, and we were waiting until after his initial visit with the allergist. Iron, Vitamin D and Zinc are very important in the 6-8 month range, as demand increases and it is not able to be fully met by breastmilk alone. I had my Vitamin D levels tested near the end of pregnancy and they were high normal, and Harvey’s were also tested to be high normal, so this was not a concern for me. I continued supplementing as we had been.
Iron and Zinc
Instead of baby cereal, we introduced lamb liver as one of his early foods which is a great source of iron. There is a risk of Vitamin A toxicity with feeding liver, but lamb liver is much lower in vitamin A than beef liver. More info on this is available in the Superfood Nutrition for Babies book. Lamb meat, which was another first food is also a good source of iron. Kelly Mom has a good detailed article on iron supplementation for breastfed babies.
Zinc is another important mineral for baby’s brain and immune system development. Low levels of zinc are also associated with eczema. Meats are a good source of zinc for babies.
Our focus with food introductions was to get the most nutrient dense foods into Harvey and to pick foods that he would easily be able to tolerate. This approach is working very well, and his allergist was impressed that now at 9 months he is eating 26 different foods without reactions. The first foods we introduced, were the foods that I had been eating on my total elimination diet. All foods I give to him are organic and the meat is from local organic, pasture raised farms. I soak/wash all his fruits and veggies with Nature Clean’s Fruit and Veggie Soak to remove any organic pesticide residue.
Bone broth made from lamb was the first food we tried. He took to it well. The one tip I would offer with bone broths is to make sure that you freeze the broth soon after making, do not leave in the fridge for a day, as the longer it is in the fridge the most histamine it will contain which can cause reactions for sensitive babies
First Foods List- Spoon Fed Purees
Lamb Liver and Breastmilk
Lamb Meat and Breastmilk
Sweet Potato and Breastmilk
Blueberries and Breastmilk
Squash and Breastmilk
Zucchini and Breastmilk
Avocado and Breastmilk
8 Months (2 meals/day)
Introductions to solids were going fairly well with only a few reactions and eczema flares. He was not able to tolerate avocado, it was increasing his eczema, but we recently reintroduced it at 9 months with no reactions. We moved to foods being pureed without breastmilk for a little chunkier of a feel. I made the purees using our mini food processor
Moose- very high in iron and a good source of protein, my dad hunts, so that was our source.
Beets- also high in iron
9 Months (3 meals/day)
Harvey stopped letting us spoon feed him purees for the most part so we transitioned to chunky purees he could pick up and small bits of food for self-feeding. He started experiencing a bit of constipation, so we introduced water (1-2 oz/day). He uses the EZPZ tiny cup and got the hang of it after a day! Prunes caused a major eczema aggravation and pears and peas were not really helping so I made him chia seed pudding which worked great. Chia seed are high in fiber but are also a good source of omega 3’s and protein which is an added bonus. The recipe is linked here.
Beef- great source of iron and protein
Beef Tallow- this was the only fat he could tolerate for some time, but now can eat avocado and olive oil
Raspberries- also good for constipation
Cauliflower- use riced cauliflower sautéed until soft and he self feeds
Spinach- I give him spinach in the form of jarred baby food because of the high nitrate content you are not supposed to make this one yourself
Prunes- worked well but aggravated his eczema
Chia Seeds- the “constipation cure”
Coconut- gets red around the mouth unfortunately.
Gelatin Jigglers- great for self-feeding and gelatin is a good source of protein and good for the intestinal lining. I make them with pureed apples or pears, he loves them. Recipe from Superfood Nutrition for Babies.
Timing of Food Introductions
Due to his high risk for food allergies, we started off only introducing a new food every 3-4 days. After about a month we became confident that his reactions, especially the eczema aggravations, were happening within one day. We then switched to introducing a new food most days
But What About Breastfeeding?
Breastmilk, or formula, is still supposed to be their main source of nutrition for their first year. We never ended up supplementing with formula because Harvey reacted to all of them. Even the hypoallergenic amino acid ones, and the super expensive organic German formulas. In months 7-8 he was not eating as much food, so I was still breastfeeding every 2-3 hours round the clock. At 9 months I now feed him first thing in the morning an hour before breakfast, an hour after breakfast before his first nap, after his first nap and hour before lunch, before second nap and hour after lunch, after second nap an hour before dinner, and before bed. I feed him 2-4 times overnight as well.
Average Meal Size
I offer him these amounts, and if he eats it all I offer more
7 months 2 TBSP of food per meal (1 meals/day)
8 months 2-3 TBSP of food per meal (2 meals/day)
9 months 3-4 TBSP of food per meal (3 meals/day)
10 months 4-6 TBSP of food per meal (3 meals/day)
Which Meals Came First?
I started with dinner when he was 7 months because I was nervous about introducing foods to him and him having a reaction and being home alone. I also thought it may help to keep him fuller for the evening so he would not feed as often at night, which did not happen 😊. At 8 months we started doing lunch and dinner and then at 9 months introduced breakfast. I find he always eats the most at dinner and the least at breakfast. Lunch is hit or miss, he either devours the food or does not eat much like breakfast.
Woah, that was a long one! If you made it this far you must be really interested in infant feeding because anyone else would have quit reading a while ago! I think I covered everything on our introduction to solids foods journey so far. If there is anything that I missed that you wanted to know, please feel free to reach out!
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